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Looking back on the best of 2009
In today's Courier, we present the best of 2009 list.

Peak Peformers

1. McKenzy Harden will graduate in June as the greatest girls tennis player in Ceres High School's 100-plus-year history. She re-wrote the record books while starring at No. 1 singles, compiling a 161-9 record, winning three Valley Oak League titles and MVP awards, and securing four playoff berths. Harden wrapped up her illustrious career with a top-4 finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championships. McKenzy won 44 of 45 matches during her senior year. She accumulated 97 straight victories in conference play the past three seasons.

2. Alejandro Garcia had a phenomenal final season with Ceres High School's boys cross country team. He became the first two-time, state-meet qualifier in program history. Garcia placed 34th at the prestigious CIF competition. He also turned in improved performances at the section (second place), divisional (third) and conference (first) finals. Garcia won the Stanislaus County Invitational title and a pair of Valley Oak League cluster meets for the second straight year as well.

3. Luis Ochoa became the first Ceres High boys tennis player to win a conference title in 15 years during his junior campaign. He walloped undefeated Vicente Mosso of Sonora 6-4, 6-0 for the Valley Oak League title. Mosso edged Ochoa twice during the regular season. Luis finished the year with a 26-3 record.

4. Jode Johnson shined in multiple sports at Ceres High, including softball, basketball and volleyball. A standout right-handed slugger and shortstop in softball, Johnson ranked first in batting average (.571), home runs (5), runs scored (21), RBIs (24), slugging percentage (1.119) and on-base percentage (.617) on her way to claiming the Valley Oak League's Most Valuable Player award. She also had nine stolen bases, the second highest total in conference play. A VOL first-team selection in basketball, Johnson averaged 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The conference's No. 2 leading scorer buried game-winning shots against VOL champion East Union and fifth-place Sierra. Jode earned second-team, VOL honors in volleyball. She tallied 76 kills, 74 serve receptions, 57 digs, 16 aces and 15 blocks.

5. Central Valley's Jose Ramirez and Ceres High's Luis Martinez shared the Valley Oak League MVP award in boys soccer. Martinez, a senior forward, had 25 goals and seven assists for the Bulldogs. Ramirez, a junior offensive midfielder, accumulated 16 goals and 21 assists.

6. Ceres High light-weight wrestler Curtis Hulstine compiled a 40-8 record as a junior. The 112-pounder won two of four matches at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet, and finished in second place at the Division IV and Valley Oak League championships. During the regular season, Curtis won titles at Bear Creek, Ceres High, Sheldon and Stagg, and placed fourth at the Big Valley (Stockton) and Coast Classic (Scotts Valley) tournaments.

7. Angie Prak won all 29 of her matches while starring at No. 2 singles for Ceres High's girls tennis team during the VOL regular season. The senior earned a runner-up medal and section playoff berth after finishing second at the league finals. She lost 6-0, 6-2 to Bulldog teammate McKenzy Harden.

8. Vince Lopez dazzled fans with his play on offense, defense and special teams. The Central Valley High School football star was named to the Valley Oak League first-team as a utility player He also earned second-team, all-conference honors for his contributions on both sides of the ball. Lopez rushed for 969 yards and eight touchdowns on 118 carries. He intercepted six passes, returning one 38 yards for a TD, while starring at cornerback. Vince also had an 82-yard kickoff return score.

9. Ceres High varsity baseball player Robert Cope claimed the Valley Oak League's Offensive Player of the Year award for the second time in three seasons. He led the conference in batting average (.514), slugging percentage (.892), on-base percentage (.647), and ranked second in homers (4) and RBIs (15) despite being pitched around.

10. Martin Gomez, a multi-talented player on Central Valley High School's varsity baseball team, was a unanimous first-team, Valley Oak League pitcher. He led the conference in strikeouts (72), shutouts (2) and complete games (6), and ranked second in wins (4) and ERA (2.23). Gomez also logged playing time at third base, shortstop and second base. He posted the fourth-highest batting average in league (.444), to go along with four homers, three doubles, 16 runs and 13 RBIs.

11. Marc Bejaran's career with Central Valley High School's track and field team was brief and filled with success. The first-year high jumper advanced all the way to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet, finishing 16th overall (6-0) at Sacramento City College's Hughes Stadium. Bejaran would qualified for the CIF State Meet had he matched his personal-best height of 6-4, which he cleared on his way to a second-place finish at the Division III championships. Marc had a highlight-filled senior season, including five first-place finishes, two seconds, one third and one fifth.

12. Shane Nunes accomplished his goal when he qualified for the finals of the Sac-Joaquin Section boys swim meet at Tokay High School. Representing Ceres High, the senior placed 16th in the preliminaries of the 100 fly with a personal-best time of 54.73 seconds. He turned in a repeat performance in the finals but had a slower time (55.32) due to a shoulder injury. Nunes also teamed up with Aaron Torres, Aaron Cunningham and Michael Rodriguez to place 23rd in the 400 free relay, 25th in the 200 free relay and 31st in the 200 medley relay. Shane also captured the 100 fly title and placed second in the 200 free at the Valley Oak League championships.

Most Memorable Games

1. Ceres High's student section rushed the field at Lincoln High's Alex G. Spanos Stadium after watching the Bulldogs stun Central Valley 2-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV boys soccer championship game.

Forward Luis Martinez emerged from the dogpile with a huge smile on his face and jumped into the arms of goalkeeper Kyle Cerny.

Ceres High finally beat its crosstown nemesis, ending an eight-game winless streak that spanned four years. The Hawks edged out the Bulldogs for the Valley Oak League title in 2009 and 2008.

Junior Ramon Corona accounted for both of Ceres High's goals.

The Bulldogs also exercised the demons of last year's heart-breaking 5-4 penalty-kick shootout loss to River City in the section finals.

2. A capacity crowd at Bulldog Stadium watched nervously as Central Valley High School escaped with a 28-26 victory over Ceres High in the Fourth Annual Ceres Classic varsity football showdown.

The Hawks stopped Hadon Lopez on a potential game-tying two-point conversion run with 1:02 remaining.

Central Valley recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

Tyree Jones had an MVP-type performance for the Hawks. The junior running back rumbled for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Central Valley teammate Vince Lopez added 108 yards on 15 attempts.

Hawk sophomore quarterback Abraham Navarro scored twice on the ground (3, 1).

Hadon Lopez carried the ball 24 times for 132 yards and two scores for the Bulldogs. He also registered 10 tackles.

Ceres High managed to keep the game close despite competing with a depleted roster. Bulldog quarterback Josh Edwards suffered a career-ending knee injury at Sonora during Week 4. Several of his teammates were also sidelined with crutches during the Ceres High-Central Valley contest.

3. Central Valley's and Ceres High's boys basketball teams battled three times this past season. Those games were decided by a combined 11 points.

The first meeting between the crosstown rivals went to the host Bulldogs as they won 51-50 during the second round of the 29th Ceres Holiday Tournament.

Senior forward Tony Bradford played the role of hero for Ceres High.

Trailing 50-48, Bradford grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul while scoring the tying basket with 1.2 seconds left in regulation. Following a Hawk timeout, Tony stepped to the free-throw line and successfully completed the three-point play to win the game.

Facing a 14-point halftime deficit on its homecourt, Central Valley appeared headed for a blowout loss to Ceres High during their first clash in Valley Oak League play.

The Hawks pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in program history, rallying for a dramatic 52-45 victory.

Keymonte Wooten, Central Valley's standout 5-foot-3, 125-pound freshman point guard, scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half.

Hawk center Chris Beleele tallied a season-high 14 points.

Central Valley executed on both ends of the court in storming back from a 28-14 deficit. The Hawks outscored the Bulldogs 38-17 in the second half, including 13-2 in the fourth quarter.

Competing in front of a sellout crowd at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium, Central Valley emerged with a 53-50 win over Ceres High during the VOL season finale.

Senior Robert Morgan led the way with a team-high 11 points.

Wooten added 10 points for Central Valley, which finished one-game ahead of last-place Ceres High in the VOL standings at 4-10.

Marcus Hilgen poured in a game-high 15 points for Ceres High (3-11 VOL), which shot a horrific 35 percent (8 of 23) from the foul line. Justin Canatsy and Lance Hunter tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Ahead by just three points late in the fourth quarter, Keymonte made a pair of game-sealing free throws.

The contest featured multiple lead changes.

Other Notable Stories

1. Central Valley graduate Latrisha Jordan made a name for herself during her first season with the Fresno State women's track and field team. She placed eighth in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division I Championships. She earned a team point and became the first female hurdler in program history to earn All-American status. Latrisha, the Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year, won titles at the league, University of Southern California and Cal-Nevada Championships. She took third at the NCAA West Regional Meet. Jordan owns the school record in the 400 hurdles (58.14).

2. Don Sanders took his rightful place in Ceres High School's Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. The 1951 graduate starred in multiple sports, earned a football scholarship to Stanford and got drafted by the 49ers. Sanders, 77, was awarded 12 varsity letters at Ceres High, including three in football, basketball, baseball and track and Field. Don had a memorable senior year. He led the Bulldogs' football program to a share of the Valley Oak League title. Under head coach Wayne Hardin's guidance, Sanders developed into one of the area's top quarterbacks. He claimed the conference's outstanding player award. Don placed fifth in the 120 high hurdles at the CIF Championships in Berkeley. He completed the event in a personal-best time of 14.5 seconds. Sanders also won Class-A section, sub-section and conference titles in the 120 high hurdles and 180 low hurdles. He set VOL meet records in both events (14.8, 20.2).

3. Jaymie Lenz generated many memories during her two-year career with the Modesto Junior College women's swimming team. The 2007 Ceres High graduate earned 10 All-American certificates, made back-to-back appearances at the state competition and served as team captain during her final season.